SVLLS 2015 Inspiring Latino Leaders



by Linda Castillo

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure to cover the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit (SVLLS) 2015 and it was another successful event filled with inspiration, education, and insights for everyone to apply as they navigate their careers and help the next generation of Latino leaders. In addition to hearing from all of the informative speakers, it was a time to reconnect and meet other likeminded professionals, community leaders and students, proving yet again, in my mind, why the SVLLS is such an important conference.


The morning session Mentor, Lift and Lead Future Executives in Technology discussed navigating your career in technology and how to lead future generations into STEM careers. The panel concluded by addressing the question ‘What does it mean to be Latino?’. Passion, ganas, work ethic, familia, and sabor were some of words that came from the panel. And simply put Ileana Rivera, Senior Director, Global Content and Collaboration Services, Cisco Systems said, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” During his morning talk Closing the Corporate Gap and Building on Executive Latino Leadership, Roberto Llamas, Executive Vice President at Univision noted the fact that as Latinos we are unique and that is our strength we bring. “Hispanic leaders perform, culture and language are our advantage,” stated Roberto.

Roberto expanded on some of the points from the morning plenary with regards to creating future Latino leaders. He said that we must to talk to students early about the business community, take them on tours of businesses and have Hispanic professionals mentor children early on. His advice to navigate your career included networking yourself into uncomfortable situations including relocation. From a company perspective, he stated that it is important to develop Latino talent because of demography. Companies can’t ignore Latinos, they are their customers and employees. Culturally, Hispanics are hardworking, family based, people of destiny and religious which he noted were the very values that made our great nation.

SVLLSLuisThe Lifetime Leadership Award was presented to Luis Valdez, American playwright, actor, writer and film director. Luis shared some of his life story from the classic storyline format that starts with a question mark, exclamation mark and ends with a period. Luis jokingly said that it is not the end of his story yet! This year marks Luis’ 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Teatro Campesino. He shared about his life from Delano, California, his parents were migrant farm workers, to his San Jose roots as a graduate from James Lick High School and San Jose State University (SJSU). While he was accepted to SJSU on a scholarship for math and physics, he later switched his major to English to follow his true calling in playwriting and theater. In 1965, Valdez formed El Teatro Campesino, a farm worker’s theater troupe to further Cesar Chavez’s mission to organize farm workers into a union and it was later expanded to create plays about Chicano culture. Valdez is a hero for the lives he has touched with his theater productions and the many students who went through El Teatro Campesino. Hearing Luis speak about everything he has done brought out so much pride to be a Latino and the endless possibilities for Latinos.


The afternoon continued with the session entitled US. Emerging Entrepreneurial Latino Leadership in the United States and Latin America session presented by Ricardo Amaya, CEO of VOIQ (Mobile Ondemand Callforce) and Founder of Top Latino Tech Leaders. He shared information about accessing capital and how to raise funds. His venture was primarily funded by family and friends and for that reason he stressed the importance that small checks matter. “When your family and friends invest in your company, you are activating them as investors into tech,” said Ricardo. Latino tech founders are playing bigger role in the 21st century economy.


Many of the speakers emphasized mentoring, collaboration and education, and all of these themes were a natural lead into the final presentation by Giovanni Rodriguez, CEO of SocialxDesign entitled The Latinoshpere: The Opportunity for Hispanic Citizen Diplomacy in the 21st Century Global Economy.  He discussed his recent volunteer effort leading a delegation of Hispanic entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley on a 7-day long trip to Israel to explore the cultural and commercial connections between Hispanic entrepreneurs and Israeli entrepreneurs. The delegation included Antonio Altamirano founder of Tangelo, Tom Cervantez founder of Harvard Angels, Laura Gomez founder of Atipica, Michael Lopez president of Hispanic Net, Pilar Manchon who recently sold her company to Intel and is now the Director of Intelligent Digital Assistance  & Voice, Jesse Martinez founder of the Latino Startup Alliance, Deldelp Medina founder of Avion Ventures, Danny Navarro marketer for Google for Entrepreneurs, Pablo Perez CEO of the LAM network, Danny Sanchez a pastor and expert in conflict resolution, and Mario Tapia a managing partner of Momentum Venture Partners & Accelerator. During this landmark trip, the Israeli and Hispanic entrepreneur community were able to share, mentor, and learn from one another, and in turn create a model of engagement. At the end of Giovanni’s presentation all of the volunteers were acknowledged by assemblymember Nora Campos for their weeklong delegation and citizen diplomacy to Israel.


The conference closed on a powerful note with words of wisdom from Cid Wilson, CEO of Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR). Cid started his presentation with his story of how he took a non-paid job in the mail room at an investment firm to eventually becoming the #1 ranking financial analyst on Wall Street. In his new role at HACR, he is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace which he says is not only the right thing to do but also smart business. He pointed out a study of diversity evaluation of corporations that practiced diversity and inclusion also correlated with a higher stock price.

Cid talked about the importance of creating a pipeline to get Hispanics into the leader positions from education to hiring people in the organizations. He noted the importance of showing kids how the tools they are learning can be applied. In turn, they will show a greater level of interest at a young age.

Cid concluded with the fact that we must always go above and beyond our target. For example, if you want to be in the C-Suite, then aim to become a CEO. “Plan to achieve but dare to succeed, great results you will see,” he said. To that the end, we are the pioneers of our own destiny and with our influence we must think about everything we do in our current career and our volunteer work to ensure our success and the success of future generations of Latinos.

Linda Castillo is the Founder and Executive Editor of She writes on topics that empower and inspire Latinas including art, motherhood, green living, culture, travel, and issues transforming the Latino community. Linda has earned a B.S. in Business and a M.S. in Mass Communications from San Jose State University.